The need for an additional human rights framework that reflects the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland was recognised in the Belfast agreement and given shape through the commitment to set up a Bill of Rights forum as part of the St. Andrews agreement. Flowing from these commitments, the Government launched a public consultation on the next steps towards a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland on 30 November 2009.
The Government believe that a Bill of Rights which has the support of the people of Northern Ireland could play an important role in underpinning the peace, prosperity and political progress of Northern Ireland, and we are committed to taking this work forward. The launch of the consultation marked another milestone on that path.
The Government have received a number of requests to extend the consultation deadline by organisations that are keen to participate. As we made clear in the consultation paper, we want a full debate on the issues involved, and it is important to hear the full range of views. With that in mind, I have decided to extend the consultation deadline by four weeks until the end of March to allow those individuals and organisations who wish to contribute to do so.
I encourage everyone in Northern Ireland to read the consultation paper carefully and to participate in the debate.